We Are Making Progress
A year ago, after I had been elected chairman of the National Coalition and before I officially took office, former NCASEF General Counsel Arnold Hauptman, a very wise man, wrote an article for the November/December 2013 issue of Avanti in which he offered a list of challenges I would have to resolve in my first year. If I could accomplish the tasks on the list, he said, I would have earned a well-deserved rest during my second year.
The challenges on the list included encroachment, the tiered 7-Eleven split, the franchise fee, the DVR dispute, the gasoline commission, the 85 percent requirement, excessive LONs, increasing costs, gross profit and a few others. Looking back at my first year as chairman, the National Coalition tackled all of these issues and more—like maintenance—and although we have not resolved all of the challenges on Mr. Hauptman’s list, we continue to work on them diligently.
Another key issue we continue to work on is improving our communication and relationship with SEI. The key to a truly balanced partnership is open and honest dialogue, which also serves to enhance the franchisee/franchisor relationship. Since my first day in office the National Coalition has continued to reach out to SEI, extending either an olive branch or an opportunity for them to meet us for earnest discussion because we truly believe that improving the business for franchisees can only improve business for our franchisor.
Most recently, SEI has been actively reaching out to the franchisee community, thanks to the actions of the National Coalition and several FOA groups. The relationship with our franchisor has transformed to the point where SEI upper management is now meeting with us at both local and national levels. In fact, the National Coalition Board, over 40 franchisee leaders, met with SEI executives in Dallas on November 19, and our lead speaker at that special meeting was President and CEO Joe DePinto. He explained he had been busy taking care of SEI’s external challenges the last few years and delegated all the internal affairs to other SEI officers and managers, including franchisee matters. He said he made some changes in upper-level personnel (four senior people reassigned or let go) and that he will now be more hands-on with franchisee affairs. (See Paul Lobana’s article on page 43 for a more complete account of the meeting.)
During that meeting we discussed all manner of issues affecting franchisees, including low volume stores, the tiered gross profit split, the term of the new agreement, remodels and reimaging, goodwill, gasoline, maintenance costs, and more. Mr. DePinto said that it is a new era, that he is responsible for rebuilding the franchisee relationship, and that they will work with us to find solutions beneficial to both sides. Although this is a good step to mend the broken fence of our relationship, the National Coalition is still being excluded from the decision-making process in SEI-created committees, like the NBLC, which consist of company-selected franchisees, and not the elected leaders of our local FOAs, who can report back to their members on committee progress, and deliver feedback from to the committees from their members. Our hope is that this will change in the near future.
In the meantime, we are reaching out to SEI to make them more involved with the National Coalition by inviting them to our meetings and events. Our next National Coalition Board meeting is February 18-19, in Sandestin, Florida. Our objective is to continue to work with SEI in growing our business and enhancing our brand.
I thank Joe DePinto for attending our meeting in November, and I appreciate the fact that we’re talking with our franchisor about continuing talks in 2015. As I am responsible for the day-to-day operation of the National Coalition, I know for a fact that the CEO of the company is someone that folks would like to see at our meetings. It is essential for the betterment of the system that we develop a working relationship and true partnership with SEI, and it looks like we’re beginning to move in the right direction.